Today I read…Arrivals

Image result for arrivals j.m. freyToday I read Arrivals, An Accidental Turn novella by J.M Frey. 

The quest is over. The Reader has been returned to her home, the villain is defeated, and the hero has found his One True Love. And now the hero rides off in to the sunset with his sidekick, who is also his true love…wait…is that right? Is this the way it’s supposed to go?

This is not the way things are Supposed To Go.

So…what happens next?

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This is the novella that was published in the spring of 2017 (I’m still behind on my reviews, if you can’t tell), and it takes place immediately following The Untold Tale. Like Ghosts, this story is told from Bevel Dom’s point of view, and about how his life is turned completely upside down. For years, he and Kintyre have saved the day, and then ridden off together towards their next adventure, possibly after sharing whatever damsel they have rescued. They sleep together, but only with a woman in between them. They return to Turn Hall, but only for a visit. They are partners for life, but the aren’t life partners. And maybe neither of them is really happy, but it’s The Way Things Are. And as a storyteller, Bevel always knows the way the story is supposed to go.

But now things really have changed. Forsyth is gone, with his Reader lover Pip, and someone needs to go back to Turn Hall and run things. To take care of the tenants, and the free schools Forsyth established, and be the local Lordling. And of course, to tell everyone back home that Forsyth will not be returning (maybe they’ll leave out the bits about how he’s left for another realm with a legendary creature though, that just gets complicated). There is no longer a Shadow Hand of the king, to run the kingdom’s intelligence service. And thanks to Lucy Piper, Kintyre and Bevel have finally declared themselves to each other–it’s not just sex, it’s love. It’s commitment. It’s hard and scary and confusing and what on earth does it all mean? I mean, they’re together, but they’re not married, and Kintyre needs an heir, and how will their relationship be different, and how should it be different, and should it be different, it’s been working for years, was it really working, but they’re not happy, are they happy, Kintyre just takes Bevel for granted, but now he’s doing things for Bevel and he’s doing them WRONG!

This is a story about how Happily Ever After is actually pretty complicated, and requires a whole lot of work to make sure that you both really are happy.

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As soon as I get close enough, Andvari grabs my hand and pumps it energetically, her grin sharkish behind her fire-red beard. Her hair is down for the night, the braids of rulership now loose, waist-length waves which swing around when she turns to punch Kintyre in the kidneys.

“About time, you clueless granite-skull!” she bawls joyfully.

Kintyre doubles over, not expecting the blow, and Sviur rises from where he and their son Virfur – by the Writer, how he’s grown! – was practice-strumming his father’s lute. Sviur’s lost none of the grace his dancing days instilled in him, and he offers both of us a polite greeting. We shake hands, clasping at the elbows to check for concealed daggers in the Dwarvish way. Sviur’s golden fall of hair is loose too, as it must be because of his common birth, but now it’s threaded with white. The braid at his chin is almost entirely colorless. Much moreso than I was expecting.  Virfur comes to stand beside Sviur, shy in the way young children are. He’s probably just on the brink of ten years old, but that is still young for a Dwarf – closer to our two or three. When we saw him last, though, he was still a babe in arms.

Some small secret part of me pangs with hurt. I was hoping to hold the baby again. How silly of me to have forgotten that the world below the Cinch wouldn’t just freeze like winter ice and wait for us to come back. Ridiculous.

“Sit, sit,” Nyrath admonishes. She bustles us onto cushions on the floor, which is what we prefer in order to be eye-level with the Dwarves when we’re in casual company. Sviur passes us both cut-crystal glasses of the clear root-vegetable liquor that dwarves specialize in. Kintyre downs his immediately, in one gulp. I shoot Sviur a look of apology, but the Dwarf shakes his head. He’s used to Kintyre’s manners by now, and just refills the glass without comment. Kintyre sips this second one, at least.

Virfur, curiosity overcoming his shyness, crawls immediately into Kintyre’s legs and stretches up to stroke his naked chin with wonder. Kintyre clamps down on his grimace and picks the toddler up from under the armpits and deposits him on my lap. I set aside my glass hastily, putting it up on a side table, out of the child’s reach. His parents laugh.

“Not one for children, Kintyre?” Andvari asks in that rumbling contralto of hers.

Nyrath narrows her eyes at Kintyre, but says nothing. Neither does my lover.

“It’s not that Kin dislikes children,” I say, and I’m reminded, sharply, that Pip had once called me Kintyre’s Walking Apology. At the time it hadn’t annoyed me, or registered as an insult, because that was part of my relationship with the man who had been my master, then my friend, and then my brother-in-arms. But now, sitting beside him on the floor of a Queen’s salon, holding the heir presumptive, and as Kin’s Paried elevated in rank and supposedly now equal to Kin, I’m still making excuses for his poor behavior. I am frustrated by the lazy, entitled assumption that I would smooth things over, that I will hold what Kintyre doesn’t want to, that I will fetch and carry and cook and bow my whims to his.

Bloody aggravating.

“Then why?” Nyrath asks, forcing me to continue the lame half-explanation, half-veiled request for forgiveness for the insult of passing off a prince like he was a sack of rotten meat.

“He just… doesn’t really know what to do with them until they’re old enough for him to roughhouse with,” I say lamely. “He likes my gaggle of nieces and nephews to be sure enough, but more so now that they’re all walking and talking on their own.”

The dwarves seem to take this at face value, and attention turns back to conversation. In my lap, Virfur wobbles his way upright. The boy doesn’t seem to mind whose lap he’s in, as long as he can explore this oddity of a smooth face. Kin and I indulged in a shave with hot water and proper lotions before we answered the Queen’s bidding, and it feels fantastic to finally be scruff-less, after so long on the road.  Must be odd to the boy, though.

Oh, that will be one of the advantages of our return to Turn Hall, to be sure. A daily shave, with proper tools. Sublime.

But Pip’s words are circling in my mind, distracting me from what’s being said, taking on a sharper and sharper tone with each repetition. Kintyre’s Walking Apology. Aren’t you sick of it, Bevel? Something querulous and cranky lodges in my guts, something shapeless but quickly solidifying, something unspoken but pushing against the hollow of my throat.

Something… something…

I’m the only one in my immediate family who is unmarried and childless. While Kin and I are officially Paired, we haven’t made is known that we are a Romantic Pair by pledging our Troth. It hadn’t seemed important before, when all I wanted was a visual acknowledgment that Kin was mine. Let others see our shared Colors and assume we were only pledged as Brothers In Arms, if they prefer. What does it matter to me if their assumption is wrong?

But now, with watching Andvari pull her pregnant wife in beside her on the wing-backed chaise, the pleased curl of their mouths and the striking picture of their very different skin tones mixing together as they clasp hands, seeing the way Sviur joins us on the cushions so he can lean back against his wives’ legs, the way they are all so content and unashamed and casually public in their displays of affection… I’m struck, suddenly and hard, with a kind of envy I never thought I would ever experience.

Married.

I want… I want to… I want. But I don’t know what it’s that I want.

It’s not skin, or warmth, or sex. I have those. It’s not even affection, because Kin gives that freely, too. Gifts it like a Lord bestowing bags of grain to the pathetic, needy, starving peasants he has made pathetic, and needy, and starving by his own blind and selfish nobility.

No, it’s something else that I want.

Kintyre is too busy chatting, already sharing news of our latest quest – how we had fled Turn Hall in our individual rages, how we had separated and come back together, how we had confessed and hashed out our relationship, how we had scented Bootknife’s trail when we had stopped in Nevand to commission our Colors, how we had followed him down to the Valley of the Kings – to see the upset on my face.

I feel it growing out of my guts, infecting my expression, my posture, and I’m … I’m angry and I can’t… I can’t…

Virfur catches it, and babbles something sweetly soothing at me in the secret language of the Dwarves, one that I haven’t had the privilege to learn.

If you put on the Shadow’s Mask, you would know it, I think, and the thought jars against my wallowing self-pity so quickly that the room spins. You would understand the boy if you put on the Mask. You would understand everything.

“And what about you, Sir Dom?” Sviur asks me, and I blink hard, trying to wrench my brain around to the question he asked.

“What?”

“I asked you how you felt the morning of your Pairing. I had a stomach filled with bubbling sulfur the whole week before Andvari and I got married.” He flashes a brilliant smile at his first wife and she threads her free hand through his hair, affectionate. “What were you like before your wedding?”

Resentment boils up faster than I can contain it. “Yeah, well, we’re not really married, are we though?” I say, and then click my teeth shut hard enough that the whole room can hear it.

By the Writers’ left nutsack, is that what’s been brewing in the cauldron of my frustration?

“We’re Paired, though, Bev,” Kintyre says affably, like all the hurt in what I just spoke has passed him by completely. “And it’s not like two blokes can get married among the humanfolk anyway. Not married married.”

“And since when have we ever cared about what humanfolk normally do?” I say, and in my arms Virfur plops down on my knees, making me wince. He reaches for the lute and strums the strings, a discordant twang, and looks up at me with the expectation of praise and a grin that matches his father’s. Instead I hand the boy off to his mother. I cannot bare to have a child in my arms right now. A child that’s not… that’s not… but there never will be, never could be a child that’s…

Andvari gathers Virfur up, and he hides under her beard, both of them startled by the abrupt arrival of my foul mood.

I swallow hard, trying to pull this strange, roiling ball of emotion and confession back down into my chest. But I’ve repressed my discontent for so long it seems like now that the cork has been popped from that bottle, I can’t jam it back in.

“I… thank you for the invitation, and the drink,” I say, waving at my untouched glass. “But I’m tired.”

“Bevel—” Andvari and Kintyre say at the same time, but I’m already on my feet.

“Goodnight, your majesty, your highnesses,” I say with a curt bow, and then I retreat with my tail between my legs.

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Today I Read…Chicken Butt!

Image result for chicken butt erica perlToday I read Chicken Butt! by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Henry Cole.

Hey Dad, guess what?

What?

CHICKEN BUTT!

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I borrowed this book from the library and read it to Tiny Niece. Big mistake…she LOVED it! Pretty sure it’s because it says the word “butt” and right now toilet jokes are the height of humour to her, but to be fair she’s four. (And maybe I was hoping she’d like it and drive her parents nuts with saying “chicken butt! chicken butt!” over and over again. Being an auntie is the best revenge you can get on your siblings.) The next time I saw her, she asked me to read it again, but I had to tell her that I had returned it to the library. So Tiny Niece looks up at me with those big blue eyes and says “Auntie, will you buy the book for me?”

You know what really works? Asking a librarian for a book. She’s a clever one, my Tiny Niece. And she’s starting Senior Kindergarten, so that totally counts as a present-giving occasion, right? And books are educational, so it’s not like spoiling her and buying her something she asked for for no reason….Yes, I’m justifying, and yes she’s getting the book.

It is an entertaining read, using a callback formula, where the child asks the father questions and the dad responds. Any caregiver will be familiar with the endless joke “Guess what?” “What?” “Guess what?” “What?” “Guess-” “OK, does this joke ever end? Not if a toddler is telling it. The illustrations of Dad’s face will amuse the adult reader, as he starts off indulgent and gradually gets visibly tired of the joke, but the son still thinks it’s hilarious. The vocabulary is simple enough that the adult can read the dad’s part, and the child can read the son’s part, to read together, or this would be a great read aloud, either with a partner or with audience participation. The illustrations are great, full-page and bright, and the facial expressions are especially well-done.

The only question is, how much will my sister and her husband want to kill me when Tiny Niece starts chanting “CHICKEN BUTT! CHICKEN BUTT! CHICKEN BUTT!” at the top of her lungs? Oh well, they lived through Giant Nephew loving Toot, so they’ll just have to endure Chicken Butt too.

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Reblog: 17 Funny Things You Can Relate to If You Buy Too Many Books

17 Funny Things You Can Relate to If You Buy Too Many Books

My mother sent me this link. It’s like she knows me. Though to be fair, number 4 is actually true. And number 2. And maybe number 1. And number 12…okay, all of them. They’re all true. C’mon, have you seen the tagline for this blog? It’s not really a joke.

How about you? Which one do you relate to the most?

Today I Read…Everyone Loves Bacon

Image result for everybody loves bacon kelly dipucchioToday I read Everyone Loves Bacon written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Eric Wight.

Bacon is pretty great. He’s funny, and talented, and he smells nice, and everybody loves him. Except French Toast, because French Toast doesn’t like anyone. But some people like Bacon a little too much…

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This one is destined to be part of the birthday gift for the Trickster Baby, as well as Do NOT Open This Book. I bought it because bacon, which I maintain is a reason in and of itself. I rather enjoy this bacon renaissance we live in, and all fo the bacony goodness it has produced. The Bacon Sundae I’ve tried was actually pretty good, though the Bacon Potato Chips were a little disappointing. Adults who love bacon will find this picture book hilarious. Children, well…if they understand the twist at the end, it is actually kinda dark. At least, it is for bacon. I think you can guess what happens when someone really loves bacon? And it’s breakfast time? The illustrations are charming, of the other foods who love Bacon, and the diner they live in. Special shout-out to the Canadian Bacon in the toque who wonders why he isn’t loved as much as Bacon, since I am Canadian–sorry, CB, but you’re in an American diner and they just don’t understand you the way we do up North. I’d read this to older kids, around grades 1-2, who get why the ending is funny, because everyone really does love Bacon.

Hm, I wonder what’s in the fridge…

Today I Read…Do NOT Open This Book

Image result for do not open this book andy leeToday I read Do NOT Open This Book written by Andy Lee, and illustrated by Heath McKenzie.

Look, this is really simple. Don’t open this book. Just put it down and go read something else. It’s nice out, don’t you want to play outside? No? How about…a puppy! Yes, if you go outside right now, a puppy will be waiting for you!…A puppy with ICE CREAM!…Look, I’m begging you, stop turning the pages or else something really awful is going to happen…Stop, please…Oh no!…

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I love interactive picture books, especially ones like this where the adult reading it can really make it a performance. I ADORED The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak when I first discovered it at an OLA Super Conference a few years ago, and so did every class I read it to at my elementary school as soon as I bought a copy. This book I found at the bookstore as I was hunting for a gift for the first birthday of a friend’s child, and given how contrary the father can be, I had to get this one. (Seriously, if the world falls to a trickster/evil overlord in about 20 years, it’s going to be this kid, so might as well start buttering him up early.)

The premise is about, as is obvious from the title, a blue monster who begs the reader not to open the book, and then to stop turning the pages, or something terrible will happen (I won’t spoil it by telling you what). He rants and he raves and he begs and he tricks, but the pages just. keep. TURNING. The lettering is great, and keeps changing font size and some bits are all capitalized to add emphasis while Blue Monster is speaking , which is useful both for when the adult is performing the book for a child audience, and to use to teach learning readers about voice and emphasis. The illustrations are clean and charming, mostly of Blue Monster himself in various poses and emotions as he pleads for the turning to end.  This book is simple yet entertaining. Hmm, I wonder if I should go pick up another copy for Tiny Niece and her brother Giant Nephew. I mean, it’s not spoiling if it’s books, right?

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Today I Read… My Dad Used to Be So Cool 

Image result for my dad used to be coolToday I Read My Dad Used to Be So Cool written and illustrated by Keith Negley.

My dad used to be so cool. He was in a band! And he had a motorcycle and tattoos and I bet he had so much fun. Now all he does laundry, and he vacuums, and he ties my shoelaces, and he takes me to the park. I wonder what happened?

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I found this picture book at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May (yes, I think it’s obvious that I’m behind on posting). The author also wrote Tough Guys Have Feelings Too, which I also really liked, about how men in stereotypical male jobs like superheroes and firefighters have emotions that they can express. However, since I saw these before Father’s Day, obviously I had to get copies to troll my brothers in law.

This is a cute picture book, all about the kid musing on how his dad used to be a really cool rock star, and he doesn’t understand what changed to make his dad so boring. Through the art, we see dad taking care of his son and the home. The drum set is in the closet, the skateboard is on the wall, the motorcycle is for sale. We also see a big pull out spread of Kid and Dad playing at the park, chasing each other all over the playground, and then finally wading out into the water together. Maybe dad is still a little bit cool. But then he rocks out in the car,  which is SO EMBARRASSING! This is a nice representation of dad being perfectly  competent at taking care of his home and child, and showing that dad may still have tattoo sleeves from when he was younger but they have no bearing on his ability to nurture. It’s a nice demonstration of a step away from traditional gender roles, showing a more modern family. We don’t know if he’s a single dad, or if mom is away at work, or if there’s a second dad away at work, or what the rest of the family looks like, and it doesn’t matter. Dads do not always have to be the incompetent buffoon whose mistakes mom has to fix, and they don’t have to be the one who can fix your bike but not your sandwich, and it’s nice to see that sometimes.

Still gonna troll my brothers in law and tell them they can remind my nieces and nephew of when their dads used to be cool though. After all, what else is family for?

Today I Read…My First Book of Girl Power and Batman’s Hero Files

my-first-book-of-girl-powerToday I read My First Book of Girl Power and DC Super Friends: Batman’s Hero Files by Billy Wrecks, illustrated by Erik Doescher.

Girls are strong and smart and brave and kind. They can be heroes! Come and learn about some of the DC Super Heroines.

And: Batman likes to know everything. He keeps files on all of the Super Friends and their special Super Powers. Let’s read his files together!

Tiny Niece has started to like Superman and Batman, and as her Nerdy Auntie I feel it is my duty to encourage this. Especially Superman, who is better than Batman. But as her Feminist Nerdy Auntie, I really want her to know some of the female super heroes–Batgirl and Supergirl and Wonder Woman, who don’t have the same overwhelming amount of merchandise as the boys do. I deliberately went looking for some books featuring the female super heroes (and maybe bought some of the DC Super Hero Girls dolls, which are pretty cute and bend better than Barbie). But books with the girl heroes are actually pretty hard to find. There was one book I looked at that had 4 stories about Marvel’s Avengers, and in those 4 stories the only female character mentioned by name was Pepper Potts. And she had to be rescued. And there was one drawing of a random female bystander who also had to be rescued. Now, there have been tons of female Avengers over the years, and even the movies have Black Widow (although not my Black Widow movie, I wants it, I wants it, where is my Black Widow movie?!?) But there is nary a girl to be found in the board books and early readers I was looking at, at Chapters and the independent comic store. And as much as I enjoy the DC Super Hero Girls, it’s really aimed at an older age group than my Tiny Niece, who is just turning 4. The rare books that do include a girl hero, the ratio is usually about 1 girl character for every 5-6 boy characters. I wanted a book with a fair ratio of girl to boy characters. I ended up getting this book, which is only about girl heroes, and an early reader DC Super Friends: Batman’s Hero Files. That one has Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, with Wonder Woman and Batgirl (Supergirl not included). And there are at least pictures of Catwoman and Cheetah, though none of the villains are named.

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They’re both good books, which describe the various hero’s powers. Girl Power is a board book, and it only has a maximum of about 3 sentences per page. The language is fairly advanced, and it’s more for an adult to read to a child. Batman’s Hero Files is a reader, intended for children who are learning to read on their own, so it uses basic vocabulary and short sentences, although I’m not sure who decided ‘indestructible’ is basic vocabulary. And I do like that Girl Power emphasizes that being smart and brave and kind are qualities as worthy of praise as being strong. Hawkgirl is posed with her mace, but her description talks about her healing abilities. Batgirl likes to read books and program computers. Mera likes to explore new places. It would be nice if they included some heroines of colour–at least Batman’s Hero Files feature a black Green Lantern and Cyborg, but I guess I’ll have to be happy with baby steps of representation.

So yes, I absolutely have an agenda regarding promoting super heroes to Tiny Niece. I love superheroes. I love stories about people who try to save the world. But I want Tiny Niece to grow up to realize that she can be a superhero too, and not have to always be rescued.

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Today I Read…Toot and No No Yes Yes

Today I read No No Yes Yes and Toot, written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli. She is the same artist who illustrated the Mini Myths books by Joan Holub, which my Tiny Niece adores, so I was really interested in checking out her writing as well. These two in particular are going to be part of the Christmas present for Tiny Niece and her younger brother Giant Nephew.

Normally I summarize books in these reviews, but the titles pretty much summarize them for me. Toot is about, well, tooting. Because fart jokes are hilarious to the under 5 crowd. I fully anticipate this will be a big hit with the kids when I pull it out and read it to them on Christmas Day. Their parents may be somewhat less thrilled, but hey, isn’t the point of gifts for your nieces and nephews to annoy your siblings? I’m pretty sure that’s the purpose of noisy battery-driven toys. And while this book isn’t battery operated, it does provide the chance to make sound effects. Toot! In all seriousness, it is also good for normalizing bodily functions, and it does point out that everybody toots, even mommies and daddies and doggies. Though there is still some question about whether Fishy toots.

No No Yes Yes straddles that fine line between providing useful instruction and giving kids bad ideas. I’m sure that the scenarios in the book will all be very familiar to anyone with a toddler in their life. The language is as simple as possible, and can be used for teaching opposites as well as proper behaviour. For each double-page spread, one page is a ‘no no’ activity, like drawing on the walls, pulling kitty’s tail, and putting your toys in the potty. The opposing page has a corresponding ‘yes yes’ acceptable activity, like drawing on paper, petting kitty nicely, and pooping in the potty. Hey, toilet jokes are the next step up from fart jokes. Since Giant Nephew just hit the Terrible Twos, I’m hoping that this book might help a bit, especially the “no no” page for hitting other kids with a toy hammer. Even if it does make a funny “thunk!” sound.

I love the illustration style, simple and bright, with the same non-gendered protagonist. These two are my favourites, but Patricelli has a whole series of board books. Here’s hoping that Giant Nephew loves them as much as Tiny Niece loved Play Nice Hercules and Be Patient Pandora. Well, maybe not quite so much, reading the same book 6 times in a row is enough, right? Right? Tiny Niece, can Auntie read a different books ye–no, no she can’t. Ok sweetie.

Reblog: This Public Library Figured Out The Perfect Way For Teens To Find Self-Help Books

This Public Library Figured Out The Perfect Way For Teens To Find Self-Help Books

A friend of mine shared this, and it’s such a great idea. A librarian at Sacramento Public Library came up with a way to help teens wanting information about personal issues who don’t want to share those issues with a stranger, or even a librarian they know. If you haven’t clicked the link above, he came up with a poster listing some common topics that teens might want information on, with the Dewey Decimal numbers beside them so that the teen doesn’t have to ask for help finding them. The nice thing about DDC is that the numbers are all in order, and every library marks their shelving units with the numbers that the specific shelves hold to make things very easy to find. Even if you don’t know how to find something, you can easily ask a librarian for a lesson in finding things in general without needing to be shown exactly the subject you’re interested in, and most public libraries in Canada and the US use DDC so it is the same numbers for the same subjects in most libraries.

This is a really good way to protect privacy while still helping people find the information they need. Not everyone has internet access to find things out online, plus there’s the question of the quality of information available there, and one of the tumblr commenters in the image makes the excellent point that parents or siblings might be able to check your browser history on a home computer. The sign even recommends using the self-checkout machines for added privacy, so there’s no one handling your books and looking at the titles.

I think I might add bullying and cyber-bullying onto the list, though, since they’re very important issues right now that teens (or people of other ages, for that matter) might be dealing with. Can you think of anything else? Leave a comment with any other important topic suggestions.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Books!

On March 24th of this year I found out I was running a book fair–on May 1st. I admit, when I opened that box and found out, there was a lot of “I’m doing what? WHEN?” I’d never run a book fair before, or even a major event by myself, though I’ve been part of running conventions for years, so it was a little intimidating, especially since the Battle of the Books was already coming up in April and my teams had to finish training.

I began by immediately signing up for the Scholastic book fair webinar, and I should say here how helpful Scholastic was, especially my liaison Vanessa. They have webinars, guides, online reproducibles and forms and letters and web art that you can use, and all sorts of bonuses and promotions and sample boxes of books. They make it as easy as they possibly can for someone to set it up and start selling.

The theme Scholastic had decided on for the book fairs that year was the Kingdom of Books, and I love fantasy so I was perfectly happy to run with that (plus, why do extra work to come up with a new theme when all of the signage, web art, etc. had already been made?). I started planning out what needed to be done, what I wanted to do extra, what materials and help I would need, and when everything needed to be done by. I had a million ideas, but only so many could realistically be done. And of course, everything had to be done in between my regular work, and the Battle of the Books, and the normal school operations.

To promote the Book Fair, I got some of the students to make posters which we scattered around the school, as well as putting up the official posters that Scholastic had sent. I wrote short scripts that the students read over the announcements in the morning, talking about different books that would be sold at the book fair. I gave the Book Fair details to the office to be included in the newsletter home to parents. I read the sample books provided by Scholastic to the classes during their regular storytimes. I ran four art and story contests, with the winners picked by a panel of teachers and myself. They each got to pick out one free item from the Book Fair, from a promotion allowance that Scholastic provided.

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Book Fair contest winners (on right)

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More Book Fair contest entries

 

Everything was delivered on May 1st, and I had to completely transform my library. I received both rolling bookshelves that could be opened with the product was already on it, and boxes full of books that had to be arranged on table as well as setting up the signage. My thanks to the grade 8 students who helped me move tables and drape tablecloths and put out books and get everything set up (they were so sad to miss French, of course). I put up the poster display, arranged the display of bookmarks, highlighters, pens, erasers, etc., and set up the checkout tables with the credit card machines, reorder forms, signage, etc. that they needed. I created a playlist that I had running during the Book Fair (mostly Heather Dale and Loreena McKennit, with the Wicked, Shrek: the Musical, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella soundtracks mixed in. They were the most fairy tale-ish music I had).

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The Book Fair when you enter the library

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Impulse items table

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Minecraft! and other stuff

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Poster display

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Activity center

I also set up a small activity center for the kids to play in. My sister donated a cardboard castle, and I purchased some fairy-tale themed dress-up items (inside the red treasure chest in the pictures) using my own money–tiaras and fair wands, a knight’s armour set, a wizard’s hat, etc. I do have pictures of the kid playing with them (especially the bigger kids), but the school’s photography policy means I can’t post anything here with the kids’ faces or names. But you can take my word for it, they’re pretty funny. And I may or may not have gone around for the week wearing a crown. Hey, if the crown fits…

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Activity sheets and storyboard

I set up a small table with colouring and activity sheets and crayons. I also made a storyboard set. I printed off the web art that Scholastic had created, found a background image I liked on Google images and printed it too, coloured them, laminated them, cut them out, then stuck everything on a whiteboard easel with sticky tack. It came out quite nicely, and other than the sticky tack it was all materials I had around the library.

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Storyboard I made

All together, the Book Fair was open for one week, with a teacher preview on the Friday it was delivered, the next Monday and Tuesday were viewing days so the kids could make a list of what they wanted and show their parents before bringing in money, and the Wednesday and Thursday were the main buying days (though if anyone wanted to purchase their books before Wednesday, I certainly didn’t turn down money). Friday morning everything had to be packed up and ready to return. I opened early Wednesday morning for parents who dropped off their children in the morning, and Thursday night was the school open house, so I held a family event then for parents to come and shop for books. I actually ended up being at the school on Thursday from before 8 in the morning until after 10:30 at night (less the half-hour I took to go get a pizza, of course. Gotta have fuel). I had recruited a parent and a teacher and more than 20 students to work during the family event, to keep everything tidy and answer questions and cash people out, and it was still  insanely busy.

Book Fair money nonameBut at the end, I was very pleased with the results. We passed the goal I set! I set a goal of $5000, and we made $6296.15 gross. Hooray! Lots of new books for the library, and lots of new books that the kids got to keep! Talk about a win-win!

Looking back, there are things I would do differently if I had to do it again. While the kids were excited to volunteer and help out, I really needed an assistant to help watch them and make sure everyone was doing their designated job instead of goofing around. I could have emphasized a little more that they were there to work. The organization of the announcements could have been a little tighter. The classroom wish list program wasn’t terribly successful.

That said, I’m very proud of what I accomplished. I surpassed my sales goal. I planned, organized, promoted, set up, ran, and tore down the book fair, and I did most of it by myself. I think everyone who attended had fun, and most of the students bought something. It was definitely a challenge, but one I met, and ultimately it was a great experience. Now let’s see what my next challenge will be…